Friday, May 08, 2009

DEADLY FIRE SPREADS IN CALIFORNIIA

Firefighters near Santa Barbara. Photo: 7 May 2009
The blaze is being investigated as possible arson

Firefighters in California say they are struggling to contain a raging wildfire that is now threatening the city of Santa Barbara.

Some 2,300 firemen are battling the blaze, with Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Tom Franklin admitting that they are "running pretty thin on equipment".

The rapidly-moving blaze has already burned nearly 3,000 acres (1,214ha).

Some 12,000 more residents have been ordered to leave their homes, bringing the total number of evacuees to 30,000.

Officials say strong overnight winds pushed the flames towards Santa Barbara's more populated flat areas below its steep canyons.


This fire has been a great challenge, there's no two ways about it

Arnold Schwarzenegger
California Governor


Mr Franklin said the fire, which started on Tuesday, was particularly tough to fight as it had spread into rugged terrain with thick brush that served as fuel, the Associated Press reported.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier declared a state of emergency, releasing funds to pay for the fire-fighting effort.

"This fire has been a great challenge, there's no two ways about it," he said during a tour of the area on Thursday.

Map

The governor admitted that the blaze was proving extremely difficult to bring under control.

More than 70 homes have been damaged and a further 3,500 homes remain threatened, officials say.

At least 11 firefighters have been injured, three seriously, in the blaze, which is being investigated as possible arson.

Santa Barbara, with its idyllic climate and lush countryside, is often referred to as the American Riviera.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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